Rounding the corner, I see a motorcycle on its side, rider flung to the verge, like trash from a car window. I drop my shopping bags and run, while a man on the pavement shouts ‘accident’ and ‘ambulance’ into his cell phone.
I kneel and grip the boy’s hand. My eyes skim over shredded jeans, an awkwardly bent leg, a protruding bone.
‘What’s your name?’
‘Okay, Sam. Is there someone I can call?’
‘My mom,’ he groans.
‘What’s her number?”
He doesn’t answer. My hands scramble through his jacket pockets and I find his phone. There’s not a scratch on it. I poke the screen, but it’s password protected. I lift his hand, pushing his index finger against the home button. The phone unlocks and I quickly scroll through his contacts.
When she answers, there’s a wall of noise behind her.
‘Sam, where are you?’ she says. ‘This is so typical.’
‘My name is Marilyn,’ I say, putting her on speaker. ‘I’m here with Sam and he’s …’
‘You’re late for my birthday dinner. How could you?’
‘There’s been an accident,’ I shout, but there are loud cheers around her now and she says, ‘Just get here when you can,’ and ends the call.
The sirens are getting closer now.
‘Mom,’ Sam whispers.
‘The ambulance is almost here,’ I say. ‘You’ve got to hang on.’
‘I’m sorry,’ he says.
‘It doesn’t matter.’ My voice cracks. ‘It’s all right.’
‘Mom…’ His eyelids flicker.
I squeeze his hand tighter. I tell him he’s a wonderful son and everyone is so proud of him. I say exactly what his own mother would have, if she’d only heard me. I say what any mother would if she had this chance. As his breathing slows, I tell him everything I didn’t get to say to my son when he died alone by the side of the road last year.
“Surrogate Love” was originally published by The Sunlight Press, October, 2020.
FEATURED IMAGE: Jose Trujillo – “Mother and Child”, 2018 – oil on canvas, 16″ x 20″.
Jose Trujillo Large Modern Expressionist Mother and Child Oil Painting | Chairish
Damhnait Monaghan was born and grew up in Ontario and Newfoundland & Labrador, but now lives in the U.K. A former teacher and lawyer, her flash fiction is widely published and anthologized. Her novella-in-flash The Neverlands was voted Best Novella in the 2020 Saboteur awards. Her debut romantic comedy novel New Girl in Little Cove (2021), is NOW available through HarperCollins Canada and Graydon House Books US.